A new-look Bengaluru FC squad will have their task cut out when they come up against North Korean side 4.25 SC in the first leg of the Inter-Zonal semifinal of the 2017 AFC Cup at the Kanteerva Stadium, on Wednesday.
Taking field for their first game of the 2017-18 season, the Blues will aim to make the most of home advantage to get a positive result ahead of the second leg, which will be played in Pyongyang a fortnight later. However, the job at hand won’t be an easy one given the fact that squad has been completely overhauled only four weeks back.
“It’s never easy at the start of the season. We have a new-look squad and had just four weeks to prepare. But we’re eager to get into action and are looking forward to the game. We had a good pre-season trip to Spain and we’ve been working hard in Bengaluru as well. A bunch of players from last season are still with us and we hope to carry forward the same form from the group stage,” said Head Coach Albert Roca speaking on the eve of the big clash.
On the team news front, the Blues will be without the services of talismanic defender John Johnson, who is away for personal reasons, and Braulio Nobrega, who isn’t part of the squad. Meanwhile, the rest of the foreigners, along with Indian players are all fit and available for selection. “Johnson has been an important part of the club for the last four years, and we will definitely miss him. However, we’ve signed some good foreign players who bring in a lot of experience and will help us immensely in this competition. We’ve even included some deserving youngsters from our academy in the squad and they give us some great options in different positions,” added Roca while sharing his thoughts on the composition of the team.
Opponents 4.25 SC, who are making their debut appearance in the competition, topped Group-I (East Asia Zone) with two wins and as many draws in four games, ahead of fellow North Korean side Kigwancha SC thanks to better goal difference. While their attack will be spearheaded by tournament top-scorer Kim Yu-song who has netted nine goals, they’re pretty much an unknown opponent for Roca’s boys. “We know very little about our opponents, but we are at the business end of the competition and no matter which team we get drawn against, they won’t give us an easy game. We are focused on our strengths. 4.25 SC are definitely a good side considering that they are still unbeaten in the competition and we’re expecting a tough game,” said the coach.
The match kicks off at 19.00 IST and will be streamed live on the Facebook and YouTube channels of AFC Cup.